As the existential threat of climate change looms over our planet, no continent will be affected as badly as Africa. Extreme weather events – such as heatwaves, droughts, floods, and soil degradation - are wreaking havoc on smallholder farmers, upsetting yields, food quality and human safety. By 2050, hunger and child malnutrition could increase as much as 20%.
Increasing demand for healthy food, clean water and energy from a growing population are 3 of our greatest global challenges. Although efforts have been made to combat hunger, Africa is battling the impact of climate change and farmers are amongst those most vulnerable.
At the same time, the farmers can be agents for change themselves. Whilst climate change presents challenges for African farmers, it also offers opportunities. If carefully designed, regenerative farming can provide sustainable, economic benefits that help keep the rise in global temperature below the science-backed 1.5c-degree 2030 target. Yet, for Africa to unlock this potential, funding is urgently required in the development of sustainable farming practices.
To reduce the impact of climate change, national governments need to support state & private sector investment in climate information services (CIS) to better understand weather pattern variability, in turn modernising weather monitoring, data collection and modelling to provide greater accuracy of forecasting extreme weather events.
Greater investment is needed in research to understand how different crops and livestock breeds cope with drought, famine, and heat stress. There needs to be more emphasis on providing investment, education and management training in local communities to improve the well-being of farms, build sustainable and resilient ecosystems and undertake projects to increase food production whilst ensuring the natural resource bases are restored.
These climate finance mechanisms should be designed so that farmers can have better access to interventions that sequester carbon in the soil, such as agroforestry systems and better land use management practices.
In Kenya, farmers suffer from unreliable rainfall leading to drought conditions that subsequently increase vulnerability and food insecurity. At TreeKenya, we provide a digital platform backed by climate smart technology and sustainable precision farming that will enable farmers to access accredited markets, information and mitigate risks.
Farmers will benefit from 60% of the carbon credit revenue as a financial incentive, generated by improving farming methods – such as increasing organic matter in soils and planting indigenous trees. In the long term, this will improve the soil’s water absorption, nutrient supply and biodiversity, and help prevent erosion. Better soils also raise farm yields, improving food security and helping agriculture’s resilience to climate change.
At face value, farmer livelihoods and agricultural production in Africa have much to lose with the onset of climate change. However, with the right tools, farmers have the potential to reduce and even reverse greenhouse gas emissions. Their capacity to drive sustainable agricultural development that builds resilience will combat food insecurity and help to limit the global temperature rise.
African agriculture has long suffered from a lack of interest and investment. Both have contributed to the food crisis in the last decade and has left the continent in a perilous position. In its deliberations over which projects to fund, the international climate community has not prioritised Africa and it has often ignored agriculture, Africa’s biggest source of jobs and a crucial contributor to human welfare on the continent.
Investment in smallholder farmer, climate-smart technologies and sustainable methods of production is urgent for the survival of our planet. With it we can harvest the fruits of our labour. Africa should now be top of the climate change agenda.
Rosanna Pycraft, Journalist
Photo: Marco Simola/CIFOR, A Faidherbia Tree